Almost a century ago, organic farming was a conventional way of farming but after 1940s farming by using pesticides, herbicides and dangerous chemicals. Farming through chemistry has now become conventional farming. Due to the excess use of chemicals on conventional farms, we are facing health and environmental problems. Now it’s time to go back to our old ways of farming through biology because organic farming is necessary for a healthy future. Unlike artificial and dangerous chemicals, organic farming is farming by using living organisms. That’s the reason organic farming is our best option for a healthy future.
Back in the 1940s, when synthetic chemicals for farming were available, the basic goal of farming was better farming for high yields and inexpensive food. But now circumstances have been changed. The goal of organic farming is for a better environment, better health of soil, crop, and farmer and the end consumer.
Chemical farming is destructive.
Well, for growing and flourishing. plants and crops need phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium along with sulfur, calcium, magnesium and many more micronutrient. Nitrogen is the most essential component of protein and DNA which are essential for plant processes. If the soil has less amount of nitrogen plants would not grow and nurture fully. Similarly, during photosynthesis, phosphorous is very important for the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. It also has an important role when the plant conveys signals throughout the cell. For example, when the plant feels a probable threat, phosphorous is the main character that conveys the signals to the cell to deploy a defense mechanism. Potassium triggers enzymes that control plant functions and plays an important role in controlling stomata in leaves.
The basic model in chemical farming has been to nourish the plant synthetic fertilizers. While the purpose of the organic model is to provide the soil with basic nutrients. Nutrients which are required for plants and let those micro-organisms to mineralize organic material into forms for plants’ health.
Organic farming reduces energy for fertilization.
Chemical farming uses fertilizers that contained Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K) and Phosphorus (P), which are synthetically produced using fossil fuels. Energy, equivalent to almost thirty gallons of petrol, required to produce synthetic N, K, P, to grow an acre of corn. Chemical farming grows its industry 40% more than in 1950 and continuing. While increasing energy costs will also impact this conventional agriculture through chemical farming.
On the other hand, to generate nitrogen fertilizer, organic farming uses less energy as most of it comes from cover crops. Cover crops are those plants that are grown to be turned back into the earth for organic matter and proper nutrients. Plants that belong to the legume families, like bell beans and vetch, can be used for this purpose. It takes nitrogen from air and converts into nitrogen form which can be used by plants.
Organic farming versus chemical farming.
In 1989, a report was submitted regarding the development of the cover crops, which endorses this fact. It says that legume cover crops can add almost 75 Kilogram of nitrogen per acre which is enough to grow different summer vegetables. Similarly summer-grown legumes, for example, cowpeas, can be planted which can provide nitrogen for winter crops. As per this report, a winter crop of vetch uses around 46% to 67% less energy than chemically fertilized fields.
Similarly, in 2005, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture conducted a trial at Rodale Institute of Pennsylvania. He concluded that organic and chemical farming produces an equal crop of soybeans and corn, but organic farming uses 30% less energy.
Chemical farming intimidating eco-system.
Another aspect of synthetic chemicals is that these N, K & P are soluble in water. It makes it effortless for plants to consume it, but what about left-over chemicals? It filters into groundwater or out of the field into streams, which threats serious consequences. Such excess nutrients in rivers and lakes cause algae to grow and it uses all the oxygen in the water. It resulted in the death of sea creatures and causing an imbalance in the eco-system. In organic farming, there is almost 5 times less nitrate discharging than chemically farmed fields. Because a huge amount of nitrogen is combined with organic molecules, and only available to plants.
Crop rotation helpful in organic farming.
What is Crop rotation? Crop rotation is a practice to grow a sequence of different crops in the same piece of land in sequenced seasons. Crop rotation is done so that farmland and its soil cannot be used for only one set of nutrients. It also facilitates to reduce soil erosion and increases its fertility and crop yielding.
Crop rotation helps to reduce nematode pests, insects, plant disease and weeds. If you are growing through organic farming and don’t grow rotation crop, then be ready to face pests problems. In chemical farming, you can use pesticides to control pests, but in organic farming, your option is crop rotation. Although pesticides can be used for pest control, in long term pests become resistant to pesticides.
Compost is an organic fertilizer agent.
You may think that cover crops are providing nitrogen, then what about Potassium, Phosphorus and other nutrients? Well, here comes another essential organic fertilizer i.e. compost. Compost is a dark material made of plant and animal waste in collusion with water, air, and microbes. It consists of decomposed organic stuff, some in such a form that can be absorbed by the plants. But some of the substance must be broken down by microbes of soil. It is so much heat-generating process that the center of the pile heats up to 55˚C and 77˚C. At such voluminous heat weed seeds, animals and plant pathogens are killed.
Compost is a great source of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and many more minerals. If you put 5000 Kilo compost at one acre it will add 50 to 100 Kilo nitrogen in the soil. Interestingly it’ll add around 15 to 75 Kilo phosphorus and 100 to 150 Kilo of potassium in the soil. These nutrients are bound within organic molecules, therefore, nitrogen will release very gradually. Van Horn in his book “Compost production and utilization” mentioned that in such compost fertilization, only 15% will be utilized in the first year. However, the remainder will be released in succeeding years. Although conversion to such farming can take a few years, there are huge benefits of organic farming. It takes some time to build up such supply in the soil which release nutrients enough to support plant growth.
Compost is a big source of potassium and phosphorus.
Although compost is very useful for healthy farming, while using compost, just make sure its equilibrium with nitrogen. While using compost, be careful because the continuous use of compost increases the levels of potassium and phosphorus in the soil. So for nutrients stability cover crops must be used. Along with a variety of organic concentrated fertilizers made of blood meal, feather meal, bird guano, and chicken manure can be used. Although these fertilizers don’t add much organic substance to the soil, these are rich with nitrogen for plants.
Compost can also be made of pre-consumer kitchen waste like eggshells, banana peel, etc. and agriculture waste. In this way, landfilling organic waste, can be used to compost and recycle back into the soil to provide nutrients for plants.
Compost suppresses soil diseases.
Compost also contains micro-organisms that suppress soil diseases but do not eliminate it. It also reduces soil erosion. The plants of cover crops protect the soil from impacts of wind and raindrops, and humus particles are good to join the soil together. In chemical farming, fields are kept free of weeds through herbicides in off-seasons. But it badly crashes the soil, organic substance declines and less “bond” available to hold soil elements together. This condition left the land susceptible to erosion just like any other bare hillside after a big rain. Rainwater collects the soil, moves it along with pesticides and nutrients to somewhere else most likely in a stream. Such erosion causes nutrient loss, the sedimentation of rivers and pesticide pollution of waterways.
How organic fertilizers can be produced at a larger scale.
Although nitrogen produced from cover crops and all the manure produced from livestock is not sufficient for the world’s needs. But there is no such hurry to find organic fertilization for the whole world. Even otherwise we have many options to create fertilizers at a larger scale. We can produce organic fertilizer by animals manure by returning them to farm. In this regard, we can take an example of concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the United States of America. CAFO is an animal feeding operation that produces huge toxic lagoons of animal manure. It is difficult to return it to the farms, therefore animals should be returned to the farms so the tons of manure can be composted.
Composted urban green waste can also be used for organic farming, and this will also reduce landfills of waste up to 50%. This compost can be used nationwide, and this way it would supplement animal compost and can fertilize more land organically. After all, this being done, even if there is a shortage of organic fertilizer, then human waste can be recycled back. F.H. King was chief of Soil Management Davison of USDA. In 1911, he wrote a book named “Farmers of Forty Centuries” wherein he mentioned that for ecological farming, human wastes were returned to farmlands in China.
Dangerous effects of chemical farming.
The study conducted in 1993 shows that each year 10,000 new cases of cancer were being registered due to pesticides used in conventional farming. Not only this, every year around 70 million birds were being killed in the United States. Sprayers or farmers working in fields are at risk of prostate cancer due to methyl bromide used in these chemicals. Similarly in a study conducted in 2006 to observe the risks of pesticides or herbicides to farmers. It was observed that within the period of 10 to 20 years, people exposed to these chemicals, had a 70% higher rate of Parkinson’s disease. It’s exposure in any way, either through chemically fertilized food or being farmer in the field, could be very dangerous.
Another frightening factor about chemical farming is that, with the increased use of these pesticides, pests are growing more than they were in 1940. The reason behind this is that pests can evolve resistance to synthetic pesticides. They can survive the treatment and they can grow and multiply. In research conducted in 1996, researchers were stunned to see the results. It shows that there are more than 270 weeds, 500 insects and 150 plant pathogens, which can resist pesticides.
How pests can be controlled in organic farming.
In organic farming, an entirely different strategy is used. The grower has to learn about the ecosystem of farming, which includes life cycles of pests and beneficial bugs that help to control pests. Only then he can design a farm by curtailing pests. He should start by cultivating mixed crops, which could provide habitat for different beneficial insects and predatory birds. Along with the should use biological, control, genetic control, and natural chemicals. Some naturally occurring insects like lady beetles and various wasp parasitoids, working well for many harmful pests.
Although organic products are costly than conventionally farmed products but keep in mind that customer is paying for a cleaner environment. They are paying for less pesticide remaining on food, plus food has higher nutrients and antioxidants than chemically produced food. Against such nutritional and health benefits, even costly organic produce is still a good deal. Otherwise, we all had to pay environmental costs which are way too high.